“Place trust on your employees and give them the flexibility to achieve their goals in the way that works for them”​

The blog features leadership insights from leading CEOs / CHROs on effective leadership and how their leadership styles helped to shape the organization culture and executive performance in mitigating the ever changing challenges in the business environment. This episode features Mr. Sandeep Gopal – Chief Executive Officer of Fairfirst Insurance Ltd in conversation with Riaz Hassen – CEO of Colombo Leadership Academy

Sandeep joined Fairfirst Insurance Ltd. as the Chief Strategy Officer in January 2020 and was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of Fairfirst Insurance in May 2021. Sandeep has held many strategic roles across a number of multinational corporates such as Barclays, RSA, Allied World and Swiss Re in UK, Hong Kong and Singapore, bringing with him a multi-dimensional international experience. His expertise and exposure spans across strategy, technology, customer acquisition, risk and governance among other areas. He holds a Master of Business Administration at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Kozhikode and a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science & Engineering at the Dr. B.A Tech University, India. He is passionate about investing in people and enabling them to perform at their best.

Riaz – What are the key learnings you have taken from the recent crisis in the area of talent management and employee engagement?

Sandeep – This pandemic has drastically changed the way we manage our talent and keep our workforce engaged. Staff want to be recognized for their work and that becomes difficult when everyone is working remotely – like walking across to a colleague and appreciating their hard work is no longer an option. So the line managers have to be trained on how to manage and motivate their staff during these exceptional times – we cannot take it for granted that they will know what to do – no one has gone through this before. Investing in your people and continuously training them to deal with the new world has become paramount.

Empathy & transparency is more important than ever. There is a certain level of trust you need to place on your employees and give them the flexibility to achieve their goals and deliverables in the way that works for them. As long as we achieve the results, there is no need to micromanage. We have seen this lead to high performance as well as improved engagement

Riaz – What is the future of HR? Where do you see the challenges and changes happening?

Sandeep – I think HR services are going to become really personalized. Although there will still be standardized processes within firms, the HR function will have to adopt a customized approach to deal with every employee. For example, an employee with aged parents or young kids at home will have different challenges than a young employee staying with their parents. These factors become even more relevant in a hybrid operating model of working from home and office. So HR is going to become IHR – Individualized HR.

Managing multi-generational & heterogeneous workplace with remote working set up is an ongoing challenge that the high performing companies will need to figure out.

Motivation and retention – people will not consider financial benefits as a tool for retention anymore. They will demand for modified employee benefits like health, wellness & wellbeing, flexible work arrangements and diversity & inclusion

Riaz – What style of leadership will help to create a high-performance organization culture?

Sandeep – For me, it is three things that is behind any high-performing organisation. Firstly, it is important to let people find their own leadership style – you have to let people bring the best version of themselves to work while being the unique individuals that they are. Secondly, agile decision making is absolutely essential for success during these uncertain times. Waiting on the fence and waiting for endless amount of information before a decision is going to lead to loss of opportunities and frustration among your employees. Lastly, there has to be a relentless focus on continuous learning. An organization stops becoming high-performing the moment they stop learning.

Riaz – What defines a Great Manager and what are the key competencies required to be one?

Sandeep – A great manager is able to simplify complexity, provide clear direction to their teams and genuinely develop their teams so that they are constantly learning and enjoying their work. There are many competencies that a great manager needs but let me highlight just three – Resilient, Responsive and Repetition. A great manager has to be resilient in the face of adversities and be able to pick themselves up as well as their teams after a setback. They have to be responsive to their team’s needs and provide them with timely guidance when they need it. Lastly, repetition might seem counter intuitive but for a great manager it is important to be consistent and constant with being resilient and responsive among other things.

Riaz – What are the best practices in your organization that defines your employer brand?

Sandeep – We live by our values – Empathy, Authenticity, Transparency and Social responsibility. We incorporate these values into everything we do

  • Innovation is core to our DNA. We encourage innovation by giving employees the freedom to experiment and always #GiveitaTry. If we fail fast we learn fast and move forward. This has lead us to award winning innovations such as our Click2Claim service, new products such as Covid19 vaccination protection product etc.
  • Continuously invest in your people. Fairfirst Academy is our humble attempt at creating some of the best technically trained employees in the insurance industry. It is part of our learning culture – we want to keep learning, always!
  • Health & Wellbeing is paramount for us and our responsibility extends from our employees to their families as well. How can we expect our employees to give their best to Fairfirst if we can’t don’t ensure their health and wellbeing is taken care of.

About the interviewer – Riaz Hassen

No alt text provided for this image

Riaz Hassen is the founder CEO and Managing Director of Colombo Leadership Academy and has served in board positions in diversified conglomerates and has over 30 years of experience in providing leadership and driving business growth. He is an experienced Executive & Leadership Development Coach, A Leadership Effectiveness & Culture Assessor certified by the Leadership Circle USA. Culture & Diversity Ambassador by Hofstede Insights. Riaz is equipped with vast experience in Executive, Leadership and Transformation Coaching domains. Riaz is also an advocate of crafting Employer Branding strategies developing Employer Value Propositions and Diversity & Inclusion ventures.